3-for-5 Three-point shooting numbers by Caron Butler, who finished with 14 points

9 Rebounds for Steven Adams as the Thunder out-rebounded the Clippers by 11

9-for-10 Shooting numbers for Serge Ibaka, who scored 20 points and grabbed six rebounds

13 Assists for Russell Westbrook, who also had 23 points and eight rebounds

19-14 The Thunder’s edge in fast break points, where it shot 8-for-11 and held the Clippers to 2-for-6 shooting

32-22 The Thunder’s scoring edge in the fourth quarter

36 Points for Kevin Durant on 14-for-24 shooting, in addition to eight rebounds and six assists

55.7 Shooting percentage for the Thunder, which racked up 26 assists



GAME IN REVIEW

mailbag@thunder-nba.com
May 9th, 2014

RECAP:

LOS ANGELES – A balanced effort from every man on the roster got the Thunder to crunch time, then their duo of dynamic playmakers did the rest.

In a thrilling 118-112 win in Game 3 over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team had to battle, scrap and claw for 48 minutes, but was rewarded with the victory that gives the team a 2-1 series lead. Even in the face of adversity, the breaks of the game going in the wrong direction and emotional plays on both sides of the ball, the Thunder maintained its poise and composure.

In the final three minutes the Thunder out-executed the Clippers and made all of the necessary plays down the stretch to get the win. Repeated defensive stops thanks to solid pick-and-roll coverage did the job of keeping the Clippers from scoring, but the Thunder also got a clutch three-pointer from Russell Westbrook and an unbelievable turn around, fall-away jumper by Durant during a 7-0 run to put the game away.

“We did a great job of having each other's back, staying close with each other regardless of what was going on, just playing through all of it,” Westbrook said.

The work the Thunder did as a unit during the course of the game helped free up Westbrook and Durant for their late game heroics. The duo combined for 59 points, 16 rebounds and 19 assists, but it was the contributions from players like Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson, Steven Adams and Caron Butler that made the difference.

Repeatedly Durant and Westbrook attacked out of the pick-and-roll to get into the lane, deciding when to shoot or dish to a teammate based on what the Clippers gave them. In the fourth quarter, Butler was a crucial recipient, as he hit all three of his three-pointers in the fourth quarter en route to 14 points. The spacing and discipline on the offensive end led to easy decisions for the Thunder all night, as the team shot 55.7 percent and made 26 assists.

“Caron was doing a great job of spacing,” Durant said. “Serge had some good picks for them. He did what he's been doing for a while: knocking down those shots. We trust him to hit those shots. We're always going to go to him no matter what if he's open. He made some big shots for us tonight.”

“Everybody was trusting the offense, moving without the ball also and the ball was moving as well,” guard Thabo Sefolosha said. “We did a great job of spacing the floor and giving everybody options when they had the ball in their hands.”

The other major beneficiary of the drive-and-dish games of Westbrook and Durant was Ibaka, who scored 20 points on 9-for-10 shooting, including 9-for-9 inside the three-point line. Despite foul trouble early, Ibaka stayed sharp and mentally engaged on both ends of the floor to play his best ball in the second half, when he scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds in the final two quarters. His physicality, intensity and accuracy was a major factor in the final outcome.

“(Serge) plays with every ounce of fiber he has for his team,” Brooks said. “He's really developed a nice midrange shot. He stepped it out from three. He's rebounding better.”

Along with Durant and Ibaka’s special shot-making ability, the Thunder got the correct defensive mindset from the beginning of this one, led by Westbrook’s timing at the point of attack. The Thunder’s point guard had the right energy when attacking the ball-handler at the top of the pick-and-roll, and repeatedly put his body on the line getting around screens to rein in the Clippers’ attack. When he got chances on the offensive end, Westbrook was yet again a maestro, scoring 23 points and dishing out 13 assists to just two turnovers, while also making eight rebounds.

“It was vintage Russell,” Brooks said. “He's another guy that fills up the stats sheet. He plays the game the right way, and that's hard. He plays with a lot of effort.”

TURNING POINT:

It was a back and forth affair that featured 19 lead changes and 13 ties, but when it got to Crunch time, the Thunder seemed to have the answers. With 2:33 remaining in the game, the Thunder’s lead was cut to just one point at 108-107. On the ensuing Thunder offensive possession, Russell Westbrook went left around a screen and nailed a three-pointer from the top of the key. The Thunder forced Chris Paul to miss a three-pointer, as Reggie Jackson grabbed the defensive rebound. Jackson got the ball to Westbrook, who found Kevin Durant on the right wing with Paul guarding him. In one motion, Durant turned over his left shoulder and drained a fall-away jumper.

“It was just being patient, running our sets,” Westbrook said. “I saw they were switching towards the end of the game. I tried to take advantage of it. As you guys know, when it's time to score, we get the ball to Kevin, he does what he does.”

The Thunder then forced another missed jumper, Durant boxed out and drew an offensive foul and then Reggie Jackson knocked down two free throws to make it 115-107 with 22 seconds remaining. The 7-0 run helped the Thunder break the game open and take control for good.

PLAYS THE BOX SCORE WON’T SHOW, FIRST HALF:

Excellent post defense by Serge Ibaka to force Blake Griffin into a difficult missed shot. Thabo Sefolosha and Nick Collison dive on the floor for a loose ball to regain possession for the Thunder. Nice helpside defense by Kendrick Perkins to block a shot and start a Thunder fast break. Nice box out by Collison on the offensive end to draw a foul on Blake Griffin. Slick backdoor cut by Kevin Durant and a nice feed from Collison for an easy bucket. Collison smartly tips an offensive rebound to Steven Adams for a dunk.

PLAYS THE BOX SCORE WON’T SHOW, SECOND HALF:

Strong screen by Perkins to free up Durant on a pin down for a jumper. Just incredible vision by Westbrook to find a cutting Durant for a layup. Smart defense for the entire shot clock to stop the pick-and-roll and force the Clippers into a three-second violation. Nice vision by Durant to see Caron Butler in the corner for a wide open three-pointer. Firm screen by Ibaka, holding his ground to free up Butler for a three. Durant gets inside position and draws an over the back foul on DeAndre Jordan.



“It's the first of four, not the first of two. We have to stay focused and come back Sunday afternoon and play better.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks